What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of a child? We asked this question of one another at a meeting of ECDC teachers. Some responses were “creative”,” curious”, “open”, “innocent”, “beautiful” and “capable”.
It is a simple but worthwhile question. If we think of children as unruly and naughty, we will surely have a teaching style that reflects a negative image. We can look at history when a scolding might have included the phrase “children should be seen but not heard”. Children suffered in such environments where humiliation and even abuse accompanied the attitude.
Fortunately we have a strong history of viewing children in positive light. From a Jewish perspective, children are prized as the hope for the future. It was told by Rabbi Meir that the Almighty entrusted the Torah to the Jewish people because the children would guarantee continuance.
Moving forward 5000 years, we begin with “the image of the child” when studying the Reggio Emilia approach to early education. We are taught by Reggio Educators that it is important to reflect on the image and even to make a conscious choice. If we define children as capable, then we must offer the corresponding encouragement and opportunities. The choice is followed by daily close observation of the children.
When we watch and listen carefully we will be continually surprised at what children can do! Babies and toddlers can communicate their recognition and delight when recognizing a face. Children can make up dances, rhythms and songs and teach them to one another. They can construct a block building that is too big to be contained in the classroom and must continue into the hallway. They can make up stories and change the stories as their friends add new dimensions. They can remember their stories and projects from months ago and jump right back into the experience to keep it going in a novel direction. They can use paper and glue in a way that no one has thought of before. The capability of each child is endless.
Children thrive with positive support and an engaging environment. At ECDC we see growth in front of our eyes. We see the children build relationships, ideas, skills and confidence. A positive view of children breeds positive growth. As said in Song of Songs Rabbah 1:4, “Our children will be our guarantors.”
When we think of children, a word that comes to mind is “Hope”.